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Here you will find definitions and meanings of some of the most frequently used terms on the site.


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Made up from cells and proteins that defend the body against infection. Lymphocytes, lymph nodes and the spleen are parts of the body’s immune system.

The ability to resist infection

A method that uses the reaction of antibodies with cell antigens to determine a specific type of cell in a sample of blood cells, marrow cells or lymph node cells. The antibodies react with specific antigens on the cell. A tag is attached to an antibody so that it can be detected.
The tag can be identified by the laboratory detector used for the test. As cells carrying their array of antigens are tagged with specific antibodies, they can be identified; for example, myeloid leukaemic cells can be distinguished from lymphocytic leukaemic cells. Normal lymphocytes may be distinguished from leukaemic lymphocytes. This method also helps sub-classify cell types, information that may, in turn, help in deciding on the best treatment to apply in that type of leukaemia or lymphoma. The antigen on a cell is referred to as a “cluster designation” or “CD,” with an associated number. For example, CD10, also referred to as “CALLA” (common acute lymphoblastic leukaemia antigen), may be present on leukaemic lymphoblasts and CD33, and may be present on leukaemic myeloblasts.

Refers to a state in which the immune system does not function properly and its protective functions are inadequate. The patient is more susceptible to infections, including those from microbes that are usually not highly infectious. This can occur as a result of intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy, especially when used in high doses to condition a patient for transplantation. It can also occur because of disease states. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is one such disease. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) creates an immunosuppressive state in which immune protection against infection is inadequate. In the transplant patient the conditioning regimen and severe GVHD can result in overwhelming infection. See Graft-Versus-Host Disease.

This is the designation for the space between the covering or lining of the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain or spinal cord. This lining is called the “meninges.” In some situations, drugs have to be administered directly into the spinal canal when leukaemia cells are in the meninges. This is called “Intrathecal therapy.”

An abnormality of chromosomes that occurs when a section of a chromosome breaks and turns upside down, so that its genetic material is in reverse order but the inverted piece remains attached to the chromosome.


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